One of the most frequently asked questions I get is: “Why do you consider yourself a self-taught Designer?”
I’m well aware that all good designers nowadays must be willing to learn new things and someway become self-taught every day. That definitely should be part of every designer's skill set. I get it. But my story goes way more back, as I never got any formal education, my carrier was based on every life and non-design-related job experience, completely built out of passion and adaptability.
I was born in Higuito, San José, Costa Rica. A working class neighborhood in the south of the city. I was a problematic kid, but at the same time, I knew I wanted something different for my life. When I was 14 years old I dropped out of high school to work and play drums for a living, but apparently that didn't work out.
After trying a few naive and unsuccessful business ventures, I got my first job in a natural products factory, then I spent 3 years selling books door by door, and then my next job before I became a designer was as a swimming pool equipment salesman.
All of those jobs taught me valuable things about work and life, like how to communicate or sale an idea, how to work hard without any rest and they also taught me the value of patience and gratitude and set the foundation of one of my favorite skills: Adaptability, which I consider one of the most valuable tools in the designer's skill set.
I remember I had to empty the trash from my job's offices once a week, (I really hated that), right there I met the two designers of the company and was amazed by what they were doing. In fact, I asked one of them to design the logo of my first rock band, which I eventually ended up redesigning myself. I continued working on logo design and one of the logos I made connected me with four events that changed my life: My first trip to Europe, being able to live in Russia, my first contact with digital products, and the valuable lesson of building meaningful relationships.
In 2010, I decided to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, I also learned some basics about logos and graphic design, and I started working. I used to design cheap logos for friends. One of those friends recommended me with his boss, who was creating an app and needed a logo for his brand. I designed the logo, he liked it. and a few months later he asked me to work on some icons for the app UI (I had no idea what a UI was). The app was called “Eyewiz”.
In 2014, after several months of hard work and always learning by myself, I had a life-changing experience when I travel to Dublin, Ireland to attend the Web Summit, the plan was to launch “Eyewiz”, the first Startup project I worked with. A few months later, I was asked to leave everything in my country for an opportunity to work with Eyewiz in Belgorod, Russia. Even with a lack of formal design education and very limited knowledge of UX and products, that experience opened my eyes to a new world and definitely changed my life.
Eventually, I came across “UX”, which was something entirely new in my country around 2015.
I'm a practical designer and I believe a complex methodical process doesn't guarantee success, I believe in flexibility, collaboration, and adaptability. I believe in putting something in people's hands, validating it, and observing whether it's something I should keep, throw away, or improve. User testing is my main source of research and user understanding.
I like to see design from a strategic standpoint, that solves a problem with a great idea, which will eventually provide value and a delightful experience for people.
I've treasured one important lesson: I cannot design a product by myself. Collaboration is key, and probably the most valuable aspect of it; is involving people without any prior knowledge about design in the process, from different backgrounds and fields of expertise, that makes a product stronger, and it brings new perspectives.
As a self-taught designer, sometimes I'd like to validate my process with a globally recognized product or company, and other times I may doubt whether I'm on the right path, yet I don't regret any of my decisions and am proud of my design journey so far.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read all this.